=== 25th-ranked Beavers begin season against dangerous Eagles ===
Corvallis, OR (Sports Network) - The Oregon State Beavers will open up their
highly anticipated 2013 season and defend their national ranking against FCS
foe Eastern Washington at Reser Stadium.
The Eagles were one of the better teams in the FCS last season and enter this
campaign ranked No. 4 in The Sports Network FCS Top 25 poll. The Eagles are
also just a few years removed from a national championship in 2010. Eastern
Washington was defeated, 24-20, by Washington State, another Pac-12 program,
last season and with 13 returning starters, hopes to exact some revenge on the
conference this time around.
"I love being in those environments competing, fighting and putting it all out
there," Eastern Washington head coach Beau Baldwin said. "Our players love it.
They want to show that they are right there with them."
Last year at this time Oregon State was nowhere near the Top 25 as the Beavers
entered the campaign off a 3-9 effort in 2011. However with a 6-0 start to the
season the Beavers rose as high as No. 7 in the Top 25 and despite stumbling
down the stretch, finished 9-4. That was the best record for Oregon State
since 2008 and the six-win improvement was the largest in program history.
There are still lingering doubts about the Beavers though. The thought is that
they are more in line with the team that went 3-4 down the stretch, than the
team that ripped off six straight wins to open the year. Head coach Mike Riley
preaches against complacency.
"The one thing I've tried to reinforce is there are no accidents in this
thing," Riley said. "You've got to go earn everything you're going to get.
Just because of what the team last year did, there's no guarantees about
These two Pacific Northwest teams have met just twice before. Oregon State has
won both contests including a 56-17 rout in 2006.
Though their numbers obviously need to be taken with some reservations
entering this contest, the Eagles were a team that posted big numbers on
offense last season. Eastern Washington scored 33.7 points per game and racked
up more than 440 yards of total offense on average.
Quarterback Vernon Adams is a talented player that will finally have the job
to himself. Last season he split time with Kyle Padron, but with Padron having
moved on, Adams has the chance to show what he is capable of. Expectations are
high, as Adams completed 60.9 percent of his pass attempts last season for
1,961 yards and 20 touchdowns, while adding 342 yards on the ground.
Adams will need to gel with a largely new receiving corps as many of the top
options from last season, especially Brandon Kaufman (93 receptions, 1,850
yards, 16 TD), won't be running routes this year. Ashton Clark (49 receptions,
650 yards, five TD) should step in as the go-to target.
The Eagles are pretty solid at running back which should alleviate some of the
pressure off Adams and the passing game. Quincy Forte rushed for 597 yards and
a pair of scores last season as the team's leading rusher. He will be back as
will short-yardage specialist Demitrius Bronson, who averaged 3.6 yards per
carry but scored a team-high 11 touchdowns.
Eastern Washington's success last season wasn't strictly on offense. The
Eagles allowed just 25.4 points per game, though they were lit up for more
than 400 yards per game. As a team the Eagles did record 36 sacks and forced
Tackle machine Ronnie Hamlin is back to lead the unit at linebacker. Hamlin
had 136 tackles last season, 13 of which went for loss. He also forced a pair
of fumbles and recorded a pair of interceptions. Cody McCarthy (47 tackles)
and J.C. Agen will line up at linebacker as well.
There are four other returning starters for the Eagles on defense with Andru
Pulu filling in at defensive tackle and safety Allen Brown (91 tackles) and
cornerbacks Ronald Baines and T.J. Lee anchoring the secondary.
After going back and forth between Sean Mannion and Cody Vaz during much of
last season it is no real surprise that Riley waited so long to pick his
starting quarterback for week one. It came out this week that Mannion will get
the nod to begin the campaign.
Mannion was a more accurate passer than Vaz as he completed 64.7 percent of
his pass attempts, while totaling 2,446 yards passing with 15 touchdowns. Vaz
threw for 1,480 yards and 11 touchdowns in more than 100 fewer pass attempts
and made better decisions as his three interceptions were 10 fewer than
Mannion. Obviously Riley will not fear going to Vaz should Mannion struggle at
any point this season.
Only half of one of the more explosive receiving duos in the country will be
back in Corvallis. Markus Wheaton moved on to the NFL, leaving Brandin Cooks
as the primary target. It's a role Cooks should excel in after he caught 67
passes for 1,151 yards last season. Lesser used targets like Kevin Cummings
(18 rec, 208 yards, TD) will be called on to line up across from Cooks. Tight
end Connor Hamlett (32 rec, 403 yards, 3 TDs) could also become a larger
The Beavers struggled to run the ball though and ranked 100th nationally on
the ground (124.4 ypg). Starting running back Storm Woods' lingering knee
issues were part of the reason, though he still managed to finish with 940
yards and 13 touchdowns. An improvement on those numbers by a now healthy
Woods is anticipated.
The Beavers were a stingy and scrappy defensive squad last season. As a team
they ranked third in the Pac-12 in total defense (354 ypg), while ranking
among the top 30 teams in the country in scoring defense (20.6 ppg) and
rushing defense (129.5 ypg).
There were some major losses in the offseason on the defensive side of the
ball. The most notable of which was the departure of All-American safety
Even with Poyer gone there are still a number of skilled and productive
players returning to reclaim starting spots. Rashaad Reynolds will be the
leader in the secondary now. Last season the cornerback was second on the team
with 75 tackles while collecting three interceptions and a team-high 16 passes
Michael Doctor (83 tackles) led the team in stops last season and will be
joined by D.J. Alexander (50 tackles) in the linebacking corps, one of the
keys to Oregon State's effective run defense.
Up front Scott Crichton (17.5 TFL, 9.0 sacks) was a nightmare for opposing
backfields last season and returns to build on his strong sophomore campaign.
08/28 11:38:08 ET